Among the many adjustments demanded of the English, when they were in India, was their acclimatization to local food and methods of preparation. The fundamentally hybrid character of the Anglo-Indian cuisine derives from a multiplicity of influences, including the food practices of the British, and the food traditions of the Indian people.
The attempt to produce palatable approximations of British food in India were often compromised in the early days of the British Raj. The Indian kitchens were not well-equipped for the preparation of British dishes.
The common Indian kitchen essentials differed from what was found in England. Indians usually had varieties of grinding stones for blending spices, batter preparation and cereal processing; a bunch of large and small pots for preparing curries, soups and porridge; some frying pans, steaming utensils, wobbly woks, kettles and a basic fire-wood oven.
Additionally, the Muslim cooks (as a good number of Hindus were vegetarians) were hampered by a lack of personal experience of the food they were trying to produce. Indian and British tastes were entirely different, so it was extremely difficult for the cooks to accurately determine what they were aiming for. The result was a long line of cooks trained in a culinary style of which they had no personal understanding, but each one adding his own eccentric and peculiar interpretations of British dishes, until these preparations eventually became part of the Indian version of British cookery.
Thus, many British dishes underwent a process of orientalization. There were soups tempered with cumin and red chilies, roasts cooked with whole spices like cloves, cinnamon and peppercorns and croquettes flavored with turmeric and garam masala. Casseroles, usually made with carrots and celery in a wine-based sauce, thickened with flour, were leavened with Indian spice mixtures (masalas). The results were neither curries nor casseroles but something in-between. No other colonial dish was more consumed, debated and critiqued than “curry.” Today, its variations have sprung all over the British empire and is known as a quintessential Indian dish.
Apart from the food preparations, some unique Anglo-Indian terms arose in the culinary world. The name of the popular garden party drink “punch” was appropriated from the Indian “panch” that refers to the five components used in making this drink. Toddy comes from the Hindi word “tari,” meaning fermented sap of a palmyra palm. Congee, a porridge for the invalid, was traced to the Tamil term “kanji,” which is a starch used for stiffening cotton fabrics in those days. Mulligatawny, a fiery soup, is nothing but “mulaga thanni” (pepper water in Tamil). The meaning of “dumpukht” is air-cooled in Persian, which got anglicized into “dumpoke.” The dish “molee” is a corruption of the word “malay,” perhaps indicating the heavy use of coconuts.
Among the most widely used Anglo-Indian terms are curry, which refers to any spicy gravy dish, and chutney, which is more like jam. Indian chutneys however, are a very spicy relish prepared in minutes. Lastly the ubiquitous tiffin, a late afternoon snack in South India, was borrowed from the obsolete English slang “tiffing” or taking a little drink or sip.
Thus, Indianized British food has evolved into a distinct cuisine. Some of the well-known Anglo-Indian dishes include cutlets, curry, mulligatawny soup, kedgeree, molee, croquettes, pish-pash, punch, toddy, kul kuls and rose cookies among others. For more Anglo-Indian recipes and ideas, refer to Bridget White Kumar’s cook books.
2 cups minced vegetables
3 green chilies, finely chopped
1 inch ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, finely chopped cilantro leaves, a few salt to taste
1 tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garam masala powder
¼ cup egg whites
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
oil for pan frying
In a wide bowl combine all but the last three ingredients. Prepare a soft dough. Then divide them into equal parts and shape them into small cutlets.
Now roll these cutlets in egg whites and dip it into the breadcrumbs.
Heat oil in a frying pan. Once the oil is smoky hot, fry a few cutlets at a time, wait until they turn to golden to reddish brown on both the sides.
Serve warm as an evening snack (tiffin) along with ketchup and chutneys.